Legend Americana

Spring 2010: San Antonio, Texas.  We are there for work reasons.  It’s the first time I’d ever been to Texas.  It was the second time for my friend.  We were staying in a fairly generic hotel about a half hour from downtown.  There is nothing around but flatland, a highway an a couple of shopping centers.  It was hot, well into the 80s.  Our work related stuff didn’t take up much of our time, thank God, so that enabled us to get out and explore the city.  We had a car – courtesy of the job – and apparently plenty of time on our hands so we wanted to utilize it as much as possible.
We spent a lot of time downtown, checking out San Antonio’s famed River Walk – a beautiful stretch of stores, restaurants, and cafés, all nestled against the San Antonio river, which snakes its way through the city and beyond from what I can tell.  It’s a fairly new construction and in a way, it sort of brings to mind Amsterdam, although I’d never been there either.  There are tours one could take up the river in a boat, where they can learn a lot about the history of the city.  We didn’t take this tour, preferring just to walk it as far as it would allow us.  And we walked it far, all the way down to where the stores disappear and you come upon rows of apartments and condos.  We probably could have kept going but the heat was getting to be a little too much, and of course we had to walk all the way back to where we parked the car – a good eight blocks away from where we first descended the stairs from the streets above.
Above the River Walk is downtown San Antonio proper, with its many historical sites which naturally fascinated a history buff like me.  The Spanish Governor’s mansion and an old church, reported to be one of the first Catholic churches in the new world, built by the Spanish when San Antonio was Mexico.  We took it all in, then decided to head back to the hotel to get out of the heat and just have time for ourselves, individually, before heading out again for something to eat.  While in my room, I caught up on some personal things, answered some messages, uploaded some photos I had taken while drinking a rancid cup of instant coffee courtesy of Starbucks.  It was then I got the email about a place called “The Ghost Tracks.”  I followed the link:
It’s an urban legend now.  The story is that sometime back in the 1930s or 1940s, a school bus full of children stalled on some railroad tracks.  A speeding train plowed into it, killing everyone aboard.  According to the legend, any car that comes to a stop on these tracks feel the hands of the dead children “pushing” their car off the tracks.  The idea is to put the car into neutral and wait and sooner or later, they will begin to push your car.  After reading this, I knew we had to go check it out.
Not far from the San Juan Mission – which we took in before heading out to the railroad tracks – the area is pretty much deserted, far off the beaten track.  There is really nothing around but open land, overgrown grass and weeds, and very few homes.  It took some doing to actually find the location but once we did, we were thrilled and excited to test out this urban legend.
The first thing we did was to make sure that the railroad wasn’t an active one.  There are no gates or signals at this intersection.  Just an old, black and white, X shaped railroad crossing sign.  We got out of the car and stepped onto the tracks and looked both ways for any indication of an oncoming train.  Better to be safe than sorry.  Then we got back into the car, drove the car up onto the tracks and killed the engine.  Sure enough, the car began to move – right across the tracks to the other side.  Could the legend actually be true?
Not so fast.  As someone who is let’s say a little “skeptical” about the paranormal, I knew there had to be a good reason why this had happened.  It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the reason.
On the other side of the tracks there is a slope, which heads downward to the road on the other side.  The road rides along a wooded area.  As we sat in the car, looking back through the window, we clearly saw the slope leading back up to the tracks.  Mystery solved.  There weren’t any ghosts.  It was gravity.  We couldn’t stop laughing.
Others who have been to this site swear that its true, some of them taking the now obligatory “powder test.”  It has been said that if you sprinkle baby powder on the trunk of your car, you are supposed to see the handprints of all the children that had “pushed” your car off the tracks.  Many have done it and swear that it’s true.  We didn’t have any baby powder so we didn’t do it.  We thought about sprinkling dirt on the trunk instead but being that it wasn’t our car, we thought it was better that we didn’t.  Besides, the downward slope on the other side of the tracks was enough for me to chalk it all up to urban legend.
However there was one odd thing that happened.  The sudden appearance of mosquitos.  They seemed to come out of nowhere, biting the hell out of us, badly enough that we decided to just forget this nonsense and get back to our original plan: find a place to eat.
“Well that was a complete wash,” I said to my friend.
“Just goes to show you that people will believe whatever they want to believe,” he said.
We drove on, trying to kill the mosquitos that had made their way into the car.

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About the Author:

Born and raised in New York City. I am a musician/writer/painter who has poems and short stories published in about 40 magazines and journals throughout the United States, Canada and Europe and also has 12 books under his belt:
"Standing On Lorimer Street Awaiting Crucifixion" (Alpha Beat Press, 1996), "The Terror of Your Cunt is The Beauty of Your Face" (Black Spring Press, 1999), "Street Gospel Mystical Intellectual Survival Codes" (Budget Press, 2000), "Scrape That Violin More Darkly Then Hover Like Smoke In The Air" (Black Spring Press, 2001), "Existential Labyrinths" (Black Spring Press, 2003), "Window Shopping For A New Crown of Thorns" (Lulu Press, 2007), "November Rust" (Lulu Press, 2007), "My Arrival Is Marked By Illuminating Stains" (Lulu Press 2007), "A Symphony of Olives" (Propaganda Press, 2009) and "Divertimiento" (Propaganda Press, 2009). His second novel "Naderia" was released in January 2011 and his third, "Be Still and Know That I Am" (Beat Corrida) was released in September 2011. He is also currently playing guitar and bass for NYC singer/songwriter Linda La Porte. View My Profile

  • http://tjlubrano.blogspot.com/ TJ Lubrano

    Haha. That was a fun read Julian! You know, the way you described the “River Walk”, it did remind me a bit of Amsterdam. :)

    I’m not so sure if I’d try out a n Urban Legend ghost story…I’m a bit of chicken when it comes to these things haha.

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    • http://juliangallo66.blogspot.com/ Julian Gallo

      Hi TJ! Yes, it reminded me a bit of Amsterdam too (although I’ve never been there) but I suppose that was the idea behind it. It’s a very nice area to see. As far as the “Ghost Story” goes -- well -- I had a feeling there’d be more some logical explanation to it all. :-)

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  • elisaashley

    There was also an accompanying story about a school bus or something getting hit by the train and it was the “ghosts of the kids” pushing the cars out of the way…but the school bus thing didn’t even happen there. It’s an optical illusion. On one side of the tracks if you stop your car there it LOOKS like you’re going uphill, but as you said, it’s gravity.

    They ppl who use the baby powder test were gullible. If you sprinkle your car with it and blow off the extra you’ll see that the baby powder sticks to your own fingerprints. And oil from your fingers can hang around a while.

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    • http://juliangallo66.blogspot.com/ Julian Gallo

      I heard that story too when I “Googled” it before we drove out there. I thought it would be cool to check out and see what happened -- and of course, you see what happens. You’re absolutely right. Gravity is the big “mystery”. And come to think of it, considering how some people are going backward with regard to science these days, perhaps Gravity IS a big “mystery” for some. :-)

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  • http://www.tiredofpreviews.com Katy Kern

    Julian -- I took on an urban legend once, in South Carolina, on railroad tracks as well. huh? What happens at all these tracks? Anyway, I forget the story behind what we were supposed to see but I all remember is seeing something and believing (somewhat) that I saw something. Of course, my urban legend had to be seen at night…so, I went with a bunch a guy friends -- it so could have been the beginning of a horror flick…
    Thanks for the reminder of some of the crazy stuff we will do :-)

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    • http://juliangallo66.blogspot.com/ Julian Gallo

      Thanks Katy. It was definitely fun. I bet there isn’t a town in the U.S that has a railroad running through it that DOESN’T have some kind of urban legend attached to it. I was glad I got to see it though. Since I had gone to SA for work, I don’t think I’d ever seen it otherwise.

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  • Cher Duncombe

    Fabulous story, Julian! The history of San Antonio is so rich that I would probably have been less skeptical and those “mosquitos” would have surely meant something. I love the matter-of-fact way you built this story of your experience there. Lots of intrigue without a push! I was in San Antonio many years ago and was struck by how small the Alamo is. More than that, I was struck by the best guacamole I have ever had and put a few pounds on just enjoying it. Thanks for this trip. :)

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    • http://juliangallo66.blogspot.com/ Julian Gallo

      Thanks Cher! It was a beautiful city (although it does have one resident that brings the whole city’s IQ down a couple of notches, but I won’t mention names -- ahem.) I really loved the Riverwalk above all else, not to mention the historical sites. The Alamo was small but it wasn’t as small as some had led me to believe. It was great to see though and try to picture what had happened there. Amazing. Downtown SA is cool too, I thought. The old cathedral, the Spanish Governor’s mansion -- incredible stuff. I’d definitely go back.

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  • http://savagelettuce-thesavageland.blogspot.com/ Savage Lettuce

    There is an urban legend here in NYC that if you sprinkle baby powder on a taxi the driver turns into a genie…and beats the tar out of you. I like the ones in TX much better! :) And I certainly like reading your recollection of it. Fun!

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    • http://juliangallo66.blogspot.com/ Julian Gallo

      Ha! That’s great. I ought to try that some time, especially when they start giving you lip about taking you two feet outside of Manhattan. Thanks for reading and thanks for your comments. :-)

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  • http://sipsofjenandtonic.com Jen and Tonic

    Years ago I heard about a supposed haunted house where you could hear the voices of the dead calling out in the night. My friends and I snuck up there, and sure enough, a howling started echoing through this abandoned building. Of course, we ran out of there like madmen.

    Years later it occurred to me that this house sat directly at the bottom of a valley…where the wind swept through it at high speeds. The howling was just wind rushing through the empty house.

    And yes, people will believe what they want to believe 😉

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